South Africa experienced a significant drop in flu cases in 2020 due to strict COVID-19 lockdown measures. Wearing masks, frequent hand sanitising and social distancing reduced our exposure to viruses and the risk of getting flu.
Medical experts however expect the 2021 flu season to be as virulent as in previous years, and should this coincide with the predicted third wave of COVID-19 infection it could potentially put strain on our healthcare system resources.
Dr Lee Moses, Senior Manager: Clinical Risk at Medihelp medical aid, agrees. He says it is vital for South Africans – especially vulnerable individuals – to get the flu shot in time in order to build immunity before the official flu season starts.
Why is it important to get a flu injection?
It is the best way to protect yourself against flu. The vaccine contains inactive viral particles that teach your body to recognise and destroy the virus, thereby building an immune response to flu. So, even if you do become ill with the flu, your symptoms will be milder and your body will recover faster than without a vaccination.
When should you be vaccinated?
It takes about 14 days for your body to develop the immune response after you have received a vaccination. Dr Moses recommends that you get your flu shot as soon as the 2021 vaccinations are available at Medihelp’s network pharmacy clinics, so that you will have developed your flu immunity by the time winter arrives.
All Medihelp medical aid members have access to benefits for a flu shot as part of their added insured benefits for preventive care. If you get your flu shot at a Medihelp network pharmacy, you are assured of specially negotiated medical aid tariffs that help you avoid co-payments.
Who are vulnerable?
- Healthcare workers
- People older than 65
- Individuals with existing serious medical conditions such as lung and heart diseases
- People living with HIV or Aids
Should you get a flu vaccination and a COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes, according to Dr Moses. He explains that the two vaccinations protect you against different viruses that all affect your respiratory system. “I recommend that you wait at least 14 days after you’ve received one vaccination before getting the other, to allow your body sufficient time to build an immune response.”
Most South Africans will be vaccinated against COVID-19 during the third phase of Government’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out programme. Healthcare workers are currently being vaccinated in phase one and other vulnerable individuals will receive their vaccinations during phase two.
Will the flu vaccination give you flu?
No, the vaccine doesn’t contain a live form of the virus and cannot cause flu. You might experience some side effects such as mild soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where you were injected.
Who shouldn’t get the flu shot?
If you’re allergic to egg yolk, have had previous allergic reactions to routine vaccines or your doctor has advised against it, you should avoid getting a flu vaccination.